By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
MINISTER of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva on Friday said that the Federal Government was still consulting whether the price of the Petroleum pump price will be slashed as a result of the crash in the crude oil prices.
The Minister stated this while fielding questions from State House correspondents after the Presidential Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to review the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the nation’s economy especially the 2020 budget submitted the interim report to the President at the State House, Abuja.
Asked when the price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS (fuel) would likely be reduced in the country going by the reduction of crude oil in the international market, he said, “We are still consulting, we are still following it closely. Of course, usually, the product prices follow the crude oil price but we are still consulting, we’ll get back to you, please, be patient.”
The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele who is a member of the committee said the country does not consider it necessary for now to place travel ban on international flights.
He said,” I must say that at this time we don’t consider it very necessary that we should go for a travel ban. You all must have read and heard about the consequences of the travel ban which the United States has imposed. It has also even dire consequences.
” However, it’s not to say that we are not taking the issue very seriously and I can say this, we have friends and relatives who have travelled to the United States recently and they tell you that on entering the borders of the United States, that the kind of checks that they see at the airport is totally nonexistent compare to the ones that we have in Nigeria.
“That is a credit for Nigeria and the minister of health has taken this very seriously and we are very happy about the response so far on that matter. It’s just good that we allow it the way it is now so we don’t create more panic in the system that now has even dire consequences for our economy.”
On the issue of the spike in the rate at the Bureau de Change (BDC) segment of the market, the CBN Governor said,” let me say that some of you might have read about the release by the Central Bank of Nigeria yesterday (Thursday) evening and our assessment of what has happened is that, this is the activities of some unscrupulous speculators who thought they could take advantage of what is happening to begin to speculate on the currency.
“We have released that circular to say there is no need to panic, anybody who has legitimate business would get foreign exchange to conduct his business. What are we saying, you want to travel? – which we don’t advise at this time, you will get foreign exchange to travel. You want to conduct business, import?
“You will get foreign exchange to conduct that import transaction. Whatever you need foreign exchange to do. So for that reason, there is no need for you to rush – everybody wants to rush to the exchange to that door to but foreign exchange that you don’t even require at this time thereby leading to the spike in the price of the dollars.
“I am happy to confirm to you that as a result of this, we have also begun in collaboration with the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit as well as other security agencies – EFCC is also working with us to establish the people who are involved and I can tell you that we will find them because they use accounts.
“We will find them and I wi like to advise those involved to desist from it. But we are happy at this time that those who would have been affected by the panic being created by these speculators having read what we released to the market have now calmed down to say at least CBN has assured us that when we can get dollars to pay our school fees, we can get dollars to travel, you can get dollars to import our legitimate business we will get it.
“I am saying it is speculative because if you imagine that manufacturing firms where we are even importing our raw materials whether they are in China, Europe or South Korea where you need electronic, all those plants have been shut down.
” So where is the demand for forex coming from? Or airlines have shut down, people are not travelling, most of the airlines have no passengers, so where is the demand for foreign exchange coming from?
” This is just the activities of some scrupulous individuals and we are determine to find them and when we find them, we will use them as scapegoats so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
Also answering question whether the Federal Government was considering cutting down on the interest rate as has done by other countries as a result of the outbreak of the disease, he said that the interest rate had been slashed before the Coronavirus saga.
He said, “On the issue of interest rate, luckily, even before this time, I am sure most of you must have observed that interest rate has come down quite drastically and we are going to continue to ensure that it is not a temporary phenomenon, that it will be a phenomenon that will continue because we think and we believe that Nigerians, whether they are business people or private people who deserve to take credit should do so at a low-interest rate so that they can use them for a good purpose, pay back those loans and also do good business.
“In summary, let me say, this group has been assigned with the responsibility to conduct an assessment, there is no need for anybody to think that government – whether federal or state would not be able to conduct its activities and I can assure you that by the time we come back, notwithstanding, yes there is a drop in the price of crude, we are going to come up with a mechanism that will make it possible both for the federal and the state government to be able to conduct their businesses.
“No doubt, yes, there will be areas where we will say whether deferred because they are not so much of a priority, but I can assure you that we are thinking very seriously to ensure that the country is not so badly affected like it after others and as a result, I am saying no need for anybody to panic or worried, that’s our job.